COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA (November 18, 2021) — One in eight people will experience food insecurity in America during their lifetimes, and the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed has exacerbated hunger across the country. Here in Iowa, the search interest for “food pantry near me” went up 50% this year and search interest in SNAP reached an all-time high in Iowa in January 2021. To help combat the food-insecurity crisis, Google has launched three new features on Search and Maps to make it easier for Americans to find food and give back this holiday season.
The following features have been announced this year:
- Food Bank Locator on Google Search and Maps. Google is vetting and verifying the 24,000 food-bank and pantry listings in Google Maps and Search. With the new update, food-banks and pantries will be able to update their Google Business Profiles to highlight hours of operation, services, types of donations accepted at their location, and appointment availability where applicable.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Information Panels. Users can search for the SNAP program and receive locally-relevant, direct resources to help determine eligibility and information on how to apply for the benefit.
- EBT Payment Option. Users can search for “stores that accept EBT near me” and find a list of grocery, convenience stores, and farmers’ markets nearby that accept EBT as a payment method.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people come to Google Search to find information on food assistance. Between Thanksgiving and New Year, searches for food-banks and pantries spike on Google. In fact, for more than a decade, search interest on Google for “food bank” and “food pantry” queries spikes by 30-50% every November.
“Tens of millions of people face food insecurity across the United States, and the ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. With the launch of these new features, we're working to ensure that all Americans get the information they need to put food on their tables, and we’re proud to highlight the organizations doing the critical work to tackle food insecurity head on,” said Emily Ma, Head of Food for Good at Google.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Googlers have contributed more than $22.7 million in personal donations and company matches to food-banks and pantries around the world. Google also contributed $1M in financial support ($50K to each) to twenty innovative food-pantries, food-banks, and food-assistance organizations across the county.
One of these organizations is the MICAH House, based in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The MICAH House provides nutritious meals year-round to families and women experiencing homelessness. One of the many ways they do this is by utilizing an on-site hoop house to grow fresh produce.
“When we hear from families - especially around the holidays — that they are grateful to have a place to sleep at night — it is only possible because of generous community support from individuals and companies like Google,” said Ashley Flater, Associate Director of MICAH House. “The grant provided by Google will directly help those facing food insecurities and allow children, their parents, and women experiencing homelessness in our community have safe shelter as they get back on their feet.”
Google’s innovative tools to combat food insecurity will also directly help Council Bluffs at large.
“The pandemic has increased the number of families facing food insecurity, including right here in Iowa,” said Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh. “New tools launched today by Google, a key community partner in Council Bluffs, will make it easier for families to find assistance. Google’s donation to the MICAH House will also directly aid in their mission to combat hunger in our community.”
Even those who aren’t in need of these resources can still use Google tools to make a difference in the lives of others who do. In Iowa, search inquiries for “volunteer opportunities near me” increased 160%, showing a strong desire to help those in need.
Google’s data center in Council Bluffs came online in 2009. Since then, Google has invested more than $2.5 billion and established a long-term commitment to the state. Google employs more than 500 people at its Iowa facility and has awarded more than $2 million to local schools and nonprofits in Iowa. 163K Iowa businesses have connected with their customers through Google and Grow with Google has partnered with 160+ organizations in the state to train tens of thousands of Iowans on digital skills, including public libraries, chambers of commerce, and more. Google has supported STEM learning for 1K+ Iowa students through hands-on learning opportunities like the Anti-Gravity Games and CS First coding events.